I swear by my prog rock bands, but there are certain Bollywood gems that I think my life would be incomplete without. Amongst the best of these is the song ‘Typewriter tip tip tip tip karta hai’ from the film Bombay Talkie, where a typewriter is rightly called The Fate Machine. For a while there was nothing I wanted more than to dance on a red typewriter with the suave Shashi Kapoor. Apparently dancing on these machines was all the rage.
The first all-Indian typewriter was made in 1955 by Godrej. Half a century later, in 2009, as Godrej shut down its production of typewriters with the obvious onset of an all-devouring digital era, the country suddenly woke up to the beauty of this noisy machine. It was the same reaction as in the case of telegram’s demise in 2013, and it was just as late.
But Godrej, being a private company, has been a bit more sensitive in its goodbye. As in the case of most disasters, this one too left us with some worthwhile art to admire – With Great Truth & Regard – a gorgeous coffeetable book high on production value and featuring images by renowned Bombay photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri. Alongside his muted visual classics of existing typewriter users around India (including the gentle Ruskin Bond), are black & white beauties culled from the Godrej Archives. These are accompanied by text that narrates the history of typewriters in India. Altogether a vintage product worth spending money on, in due respect of this writing machine now considered antique but still very much in use across offices.
Where? You may ask. In our courts and government offices. And all over the countryside and its B-towns. Even the current Uttar Pradesh CM prefers using typewriters in his office in a temple in Gorakhpur. And why not, considering the number of power cuts most rural areas face on a daily basis. In fact, doesn’t a typewriter then become the most eco-friendly office equipment?
Delhi-based Rajesh Palta, a typewriter addict of sorts, is setting up a first-of-its-kind-in-India typewriter museum that I for one can’t wait to visit. At the other end of the country, in Bombay, is retired-banker and now typewriter artist Chandrakant Bhide who can sketch your portrait using only the keys of the machine.
To get one of these beauties you could of course just log on to Amazon and get yourself a vintage make. Though there is joy in going on a wild typewriter hunt across India’s Chor Bazaars, and sense too, because you can actually check if the thing works.
Why should you do anything as weird as that? Here I quote Tom Hanks, another typewriter fanatic who professed his undying love in this New York Times article: “A ribbon can be re-inked in the year 3013 and a typed letter could be sent off that very day, provided the typewriter hasn’t outlived the production of paper.”
Happy Typewriter Day yo.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar